Three Hard Won Points
By Daniel Halstead
Another tough assignment
As we approach the final stretch of the season, every game and point count and need to be fought for and it seems we have to battle the conditions on a weekly basis too. An early morning pitch inspection determined the game would go ahead in spite of all of the recent wind and rain.
It was not long since we played Downend at their pitch in what was a bruising encounter and we expected nothing differently this time with Downend arriving on the back of a good win against table topping rivals AEK Boco. Happily we are beginning to see numbers improve and even had the luxury of 2 substitutes this week. Liam was continuing his return from the dislocated shoulder and took a place on the bench alongside Josh. On the pitch we had a settled looking back four of Dex, Max, Mike and Harry in front of Toby. Joe started his second game for us anchoring the midfield behind Kyran and James with our usual front three of Joel, Cody and Harvey.
I am not sure if Kyran lost the coin toss or not, but we ended up playing into the wind for the first half and it was tough. Every ball was being contested fiercely, but I am pleased to note that we were standing up to the opposition and the conditions. AN early dead leg for Dex meant that he had to be removed and Liam was sent on in his place. There were a number of Downend corners during the first half and we repelled them effectively. On one corner, Downend rose highest and a powerful header was superbly tipped over by Toby to keep the scores level. As the first half wore on gradually we worked the ball further away from our goal (keeping it on the ground was key) and before the half time whistle we got our reward. Harvey chased down a ball in the opposition half before turning and starting towards the goal. Evading a number of challenges he managed to fire a powerful shot low and hard into the bottom left corner to continue his amazing scoring run and take us in with a half time lead.
We subbed Josh on for Liam to start the second half and sent the team out with instructions to use the wind to their advantage. Whilst we were effective, our football never really flowed in the second half with a lot of reliance being placed on trying to use the wind to send long ambitious passes over the top - not the way we were going to win. There were some bright moments and James had a long range effort that looked close to the top corner. Joe and Harvey also linked up with a neat one-two that was steered over by Joe as he stretched at the near post. However Downend did not give up and they nearly scored from another corner, this time Kyran heading clear off the line to maintain our advantage. Liam came back on again, this time for Max and we looked to try and get a decisive goal.
When it arrived it came from a deserved source. James had been composed in midfield all game making it tick over and won us a number of free kicks when his footwork was too quick for Downend. He broke down the left, beat his man into the penalty area where he was then clipped and the referee awarded a penalty. Kyran took responsibility and safely smashed the ball home to wrap up a victory.
A well earned three points and a pleasing clean sheet - a special mention to all the defence, Joe and Toby in that respect
Man of the Match: James Wakefield - dictated the tempo, linked up play and always had time despite being pressured. His penalty run sealed the game too.